Gundicha temple is one of the most renowned temples in Puri. Being another sacred place of Puri, this temple is the key segment of the well known Rath Yatra festival (Car Festival) of Puri. This temple is regarded as equally holy as Jagannath temple as Lord Jagannth with His brother and sister stays here for seven days during the annual Car Festival. It is located in the Gundicha square, near Puri bus stand. The exact geographical location of this temple is LONGITUDE 85050'33''E LATITUDE 19049'00''N. The two temples are located at two ends of Bada Danda (Grand Road) which is the pathway of Car Festival. Gundicha Temple is situated at the other end of the great highway (Badadanda). The distance between the Lion's gate of Jagannath temple and the Gundicha temple is exactly 2,688.0696 metres (8,327 feet). The temple is also known as 'Gundicha Ghara', 'Gundicha Mandira' and 'Sree Gundicha Temple'. It is popularly also known as garden house of Lord Jagannath. The temple is set within a garden and is known as God's summer garden retreat. The temple is under the care and maintenance of SJTA (Shri Jagannath Temple Administration), Puri.
Gundicha Temple has some interesting legends related to it. One legend says that Gundicha, queen of king Indradyumna of Satya Yuga, the legendary founder of the first great Jagannath temple, was a great devotee of Lord Jagannath. It is explained in many Puranas that Lord Jagannath surrenders Himself near His real devotees. Because of her (Gundicha) deep devotion, Lord Jagannath promises her to come to her house for seven days during Car Festival.
Another legend says that Gundicha Temple is Yagnya Vedi which is the birth place of Chaturddha Murti (Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra, Goddess Subhadra and Lord Sudarsan). Every year Lord with His brother and sister makes visit for seven days to the Gundicha Temple on this occasion.
Another interesting legend associated with Gundicha temple is the story of 'Babana Bhuta' (ghost named as Babana). Babana Bhuta never appeared in any from before anyone, but he is more like a divine servitor of Lord Jagannath. His duty is to guard the Gundicha Temple from evil forces when the Deities leave the temple after staying for seven days in a year during the Car Festival. On the day before Car Festival, as the temple servitors clean the temple premises, Babana Bhuta leaves the temple, but sits on the corner of the western side of the compound wall of the temple. As per the tradition, devotees leave a little Mahaprasad (food offered to Lord Jagannath) on a small piece of leaf for Babana Bhuta before they consume Mahaprasad in the premises of Gundicha Temple.
Structure and Architecture
The temple built in typical Kalingan style . The temple is sorrounded by a wall and stands in the middle of a garden. The height of the wall is 20 feet and width is 5 feet. The length of the temple is 430 feet. The height of this temple is 75 feet. The temple consists of four parts connected with kitchen rooms by a narrow passage. All the four structures (Vimana, Jagamohana, Natamandapa and Bhogamandapa) bear the traces of several plasterings and are carved in places with obscene figures in mortar. The whole temple is built of light gray sand stone. There is a plain raised seat, 4 feet high and 19 feet long, made of chlorite and this is called the 'Janma Vedi' (birthplace) or 'Ádapa Mandapa', the throne on which the three Deities are placed when brought to the temple during Car Festival. This temple has two gates, western gate and eastern gate. The western gate is the main gate and known as Singha Dwara (Lion's gate). The eastern gate is known as 'Nakachana Dwara'. The deities enter to this temple through the west gate and come out by the east gate.
Festivals and Rituals
Next to the Great Jagannath temple, the most important sanctuary of Lord Jagannath is the Sree Gundicha temple, the abode to which Lord Jagannath, Lord Balabhadra and Goddess Subhadra are driven each on his or her wooden chariot once in a year, during the car festival. It is believed that Gundicha Ghara is the house of Lord Krishna's adoring aunt Gundicha. Except for these few days, it is unoccupied, but there is a small establishment of servents by whom it is regularly maintained. Since the deities travel from Jagannath temple to Sree Gundicha temple, the Car Festival of Puri is also known as 'Sree Gundicha Yatra'.
Hera Panchami is observed on the 5th day of Car Festival. On this day, Goddess Lakshmi visits Gundicha Temple in a beautifully decorated Palanquin through Her servitors in the evening to celebrate the Hera Panchami ritual. A large number of devotees congregate at Gundicha Temple to see and enjoy this event.
The 6th day of Car Festival marks the commencement of the three-day 'Rasa Lila' of Lord Jagannath at Gundicha temple. The image of Lord Jagannath is taken to the Rasa mandapa (a temple hall) of the Gundicha temple where poems and songs from the famous Gita Govinda are sung for the last three days.
Location map of Gundicha Temple